Mexico: ‘We need water’

Emergency drinking water needed in storm-ravaged town

Mexican MudFrom ReachGlobal Mexico City Team Leader Joshua Smith:

As we stepped into the village of Bejuco, it was like a war zone. The military had arrived to respond to the massive flooding, most villagers had been forced to flee and live in temporary refuge centers, and those who remained said very simply, “We need water.”

Through partnerships with local pastors, the regional government of Coyuca and Operation Blessing, we have arranged to bring two water treatment facilities to the area. One will be placed in the city center and provided clean drinking water that will be distributed to the most affected villages in the region. The other will be placed in this village, meeting a pressing physical need. Both water plants will be supervised by local pastors who will ensure that both clean water and the Living Water are offered to the people of the area.

We hope that the Lord might use this crisis to break the crippling power of local drug lords and bring salvation and hope to the region through His gospel and His church.

How to help

We need to raise $2,000 immediately to cover the cost of the water plants and related ministry efforts. Please donate at Mexico Emergency Flood Response.

Haiti: Lessons From a Missionary-sending Nation

By Laura-Jean Watson

Everyone knows about the poverty of Haiti: The country suffers from sky-high unemployment (more than 40 percent). Thousands of people still live tents sent after the January 2010 earthquake.  Per-capita GDP is $1,358 (compared to $51,248 in the U.S.), making Haiti the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

But Haiti is, in many ways, rich in valuable assets – contentedness, gratitude for small things, resourcefulness and a collaborative culture. Haiti’s poverty still boggles the mind, but churches are using their cultural assets to transform Haiti into what many thought it would never be – a missionary-sending nation.

Haitians are now sending missionaries back to West Africa, where animism and Islam dominate, to share the life-changing message that Jesus came and died so people could be forgiven and have a new life.  They understand the culture – the voodoo and spirit-worship common in both areas — and the French language in West Africa. They are well-equipped to minister to people there.

One Haitian Christian recently said that if Haitians had not been brought from West Africa as slaves, they would not have had the opportunity to hear the gospel.  God has used something evil to bring them great blessings spiritually.

Do we in the U.S. see profit in the bad things that happen in our lives or become bitter and resentful?

But how can Haitians afford to do send missionaries?  The short answer is sacrificial giving.

One pastor encouraged his congregation to support missionaries by selling what they did not need.  He said, “If you own two shirts sell one.  If you own two pairs of shoes, sell one.  If you own two dresses, sell one.”

The Bible tells us that where our treasure is, there will our heart be also (Matthew 6:19-21).

How much are we in the U.S. willing and ready to give up in obedience to the great command to love one another and the Great Commission to share God’s saving message with the world?

Haitians have learned to be content with little and thankful for small things.  Materialism is not as rampant in their country as it is in ours.  People are resourceful and hard-working.  They look for creative ways to provide for their families.

Are we thankful for all we have or do we just complain about what we do not have and dwell on what we still want to obtain? 

Another asset Haitians have is collaboration.  They think of others and help others.  It is not unusual for one Haitian who has a paying job to support 15 to 20 other people.  They are family-oriented, and they include distant relatives in their responsibility to family.

Do we care about our communities?  Do we even know the needs of our extended family members?

Unfortunately, many families in Haiti do not have enough resources to feed their own children.  Orphanages are filled with children whose parents could not afford to feed them. Other parents send their children to live with other families, where the child must work for the host family.  Parents do this so their children can eat, but also so that they have access to an education (education is not free in Haiti — families must pay even for public schools, and all children must have uniforms to attend school).

The poverty of Haitians is striking, yes – but so is their example of love and concern for others and the kingdom of Christ. There are physical, emotional, and spiritual needs right here in the U.S. that we should be meeting.  Time needs to be invested in discovering needs.  Our conversation should not be centered on ourselves.  We need to be listening so that we know how to both pray and act to make a difference in our families and neighborhood.  We need to truly care about others.

What are you investing in?  What will you give up in obedience to God?

Making an Oasis From Grief

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Ministry offers safe place for women suffering abuse

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — At the bottom of the hill that runs through the slum of Guarari stands a two-room building.

Despite its humble appearance, the building is a refuge for many of the women who live in Guarari. The Costa Rican missionaries who come here regularly seek to make it a place of unconditional love.

“Jesus never intimidates women, hurts them, or sexually threatens them,” Shelley Snitko says while teaching a Bible study to some women here.

For many of the 40 women sitting with her, trusting Jesus is difficult because of both his masculine character and the troubled circumstances they believe he allows them to live in.  Snitko, a member of a short-term team from Huntsville, Ala., appeals to these spiritual obstacles by contrasting the character of Jesus with the oppressive men that control many of these women’s lives.

“Jesus is the light in the darkness, hope for the hopeless, peace for the restless,” Snitko says. “He is everything.”

Melanie Wilson, a missionary with ReachGlobal, initially became involved with ministry to the women of Guarari after going there in January 2012 with a short-term team.

“After getting to know the Costa Rican missionaries, I was really excited to join with them because they pretty much are the only people working in Gurari consistently,” Wilson says.

Serving with street-smarts

The ministry, which has been active in Guarari for six years, is led by Costa Rican missionary Hugo Salas. Salas grew up living on the streets and says that experience gave him a heart for others suffering from hardship.

“God gave me the vision to work in a community like this,” Hugo says. “And I began to get involved in this type of community work. I became dedicated to the ministry and the kids.”

The ministry leads Bible studies for the women and children, and also teaches women crafts like jewelry-making and painting to generate more income for their families. Salas says that in the six years the ministry has been working in Guarari, the spiritual state of the community has improved.

“We’ve been teaching the women how to love their children,” Salas says. “But apart from that, we are doing Bible studies and discipleship. Not just for the women, but also for the teens. All this is simply for the reason to tell them about the love of God.”

According to Wilson, one of the main goals of the ministry is to provide a physical place where the women can take refuge.

“It is one place where the women and children can come and it’s safe,” Wilson says. “Many homes have physical abuse, sexual abuse, alcohol abuse, drug abuse. Violence is everywhere in some form or fashion, sometimes just one of those things and sometimes all of those things. So it’s a safe place where there’s no violence.”

Redemption on display

Wilson says that one of the most powerful testimonies to the power of God’s word that she’s seen in this community happened this past June when a short-term team from Huntsville came to work with the Guarari ministry for a week. In October, Wilson had sent a prayer request asking the team to pray for a young girl who lived in Gurari and was the leader of a drug-trafficking gang.

“We sent them a prayer request to pray that God would work in the gang leader’s life and that the gospel would transform her life,” Wilson says. “We started praying in October, but then kind of forgot about it.”

To the amazement of the short-term team and the rest of the women in the community, the gang leader came with her mother, sister, and daughter every day to the June Bible studies that the short-term team held.

On the last day of that week, the women and the short-term team were trying to fill time while waiting for a pizza to be delivered. One of the ladies from Huntsville came to the front of the room and gave her testimony about her daughter who’s been heavily addicted to drugs. The woman talked about how she copes with that and how it affects her relationship with God.

As she spoke, the mother of the drug dealer cried uncontrollably. Afterward, the mother and daughter came forward.

“This is what I’ve done to my mom,” the daughter said.

“They really were touched by God’s word so we’re praying that the seed was planted and it will grow,” Wilson says.

Despite these small victories, Wilson says spiritual opposition is strong.

“Spiritually, it’s just hard to break through the hold that Satan has,” Wilson says.

As the ministry establishes itself as a place of refuge for the women and continues trying to drown out the darkness of sin with the light of Jesus, the missionaries say their greatest need is prayer.

“I would say to anybody who reads this, pray for the protection of the missionaries there and that the spiritual light that is there will shine brightly and Satan will be thwarted in all of his efforts,” Wilson says.

© 2013 EFCA. All rights reserved. ReachGlobal News is a division of EFCA-ReachGlobal.


Haiti: Welcome to Wellness

A group of Haitian children lines up behind an adult worker at a wellness clinic held recently at Source de la Grace Church in Carrefour, Haiti, right outside Port au Prince.

The clinic was run by Haitian staff of ReachGlobal’s Global Fingerprints child sponsorship program, plus 11 American workers.

Staff at the clinic cared for children who are being sponsored through GlobalFingerprints, as well as many children from the surrounding community.

Haiti Summit seeks better approaches to aid, ministry

By Laura-Jean Watson

Three years after Haiti’s devastating earthquake, a grim situation festers there as Haitian and American church leaders work to rethink how and why help is exchanged.

Dr. Jean Dorlus
Dr. Jean Dorlus

Dr. Jean Dorlus, speaking at a recent Haiti Summit organized by ReachGlobal Crisis Response, described a foreign-aid process that he said prevents Haiti from achieving much progress. Part of foreign aid is when a government simply cancels debt owed by Haiti, and it counts as aid. Another part, often as high as 60 percent, goes toward paying salaries for foreign administrators. Donors often dictate the projects and objectives they will support, never asking the Haitians what is most needed.  There is also often a lack of coordination between non-profit groups.

“How has the church done similar things?” says Dorlus, president of Séminaire de Théologie Evangélique de Port-au-Prince (STEP). “How can we correct it and be very helpful?  How can we do differently?”

Ministry leaders from Haiti and the United States spoke at the May 13-15 summit at the Hershey (Pa.) Evangelical Free Church. About 50 people attended the event, organized by ReachGlobal Crisis Response (formerly TouchGlobal) and the Hershey church.

The Jan. 12, 2010, quake killed 316,000 people; it was the eighth-worst natural disaster in recorded history. The desperately poor nation hoped that the world spotlight might begin a new chapter, one that would at last find solutions to material and spiritual poverty.

For a time, the people of Haiti thought the world’s outpouring of help following the 2010 earthquake was a sign that things finally might change here. But optimism has dimmed, to a point where a familiar sentiment is on people’s lips: “The world has forgotten about Haiti once again.” That was the assessment of Bruce McMartin, a teacher at the Séminaire de Théologie Evangélique de Port-au-Prince (STEP), which trains national church leaders.

Mark Lewis, ReachGlobal Crisis Response Director, elaborated.

“More of the ministry I observed was focused on fixing perceived problems – doing that versus coming alongside indigenously developed ministry plans or even focusing on long-term development for Gospel transformation,” he said. “Further, I gained the perception that so much of the ministry effort that was occurring was disjointed or uncoordinated in Haiti – in some cases, occurring in an unhealthy, disempowering, or even dependency approach.”

As he met Haitian leaders in recent months, he found that some had similar observations. Lewis began thinking about organizing the summit, “convening a conversation that would allow the leaders of the church in Haiti to share clearly and openly and honestly with the leaders of the North American church about the ministry North Americans do in Haiti,” he said. “It is hard for us to really listen and then be self-reflective and transparent enough to consider maybe changing our approach to ministry, not only in Haiti, but maybe even in our own community.  It would be a conversation that allowed us to hear from our Haitian brothers about the blind spots we have in our own version of North American Christianity.”

As a result of the Summit, a Haiti Consortium was formed to connect American churches and Haitian partners to work together and make a lasting difference in both countries and beyond.

“The vision for Haiti is to see an indigenous, disciple making, and multiplying church within walking distance of every Haitian, which demonstrates and engages in proclaiming the transforming power of the Gospel,” Lewis told the group.

Sessions addressed how to help others without hurting them, micro solutions to macro problems, and short-term missions opportunities in Haiti. One session looked at Global Fingerprints, ReachGlobal’s child sponsorship program. Global Fingerprints works through the local churches while helping families remain intact and helping children.

During the summit, Dorlus outlined the history of the Protestant church in Haiti to help understand the strengths, weaknesses and challenges faced today. Some strengths in the Haitian church today, he said, are prayer, evangelism and Bible knowledge. Weaknesses included discipleship, legalism, untrained leadership and missions. Challenges, he said, include a lack of vision and unity, limited human and financial resources, stewardship, theological understanding, pastoral ministry and church planting.

Jean Baptiste Wadestrant, aka "Wawa"
Jean Baptiste Wadestrant, aka “Wawa”

Another speaker from STEP, Jean Baptiste Wadestrant (known as Wawa), talked about voodoo’s influence on the Haitian church’s culture. The son of a voodoo priest, Wawa said many Haitians try to combine Christianity with voodoo instead of changing their worldview. That hinders hearing and understanding the Word of God.

That, he said, lies at the core of Haiti’s problems.

“NGOs cannot change Haiti,” he said. “The core is spiritual, and the solution must be spiritual.”

Lewis, on the other hand, talked about ways Americans’ worldview can be spiritually limiting as well. Most Haitians believe discipleship should focus on relationships, he said. They do life together with another person to teach and show them how to live. Americans, he added, are more likely to focus on programs, projects and acquiring knowledge. They like to have a list they can check off.

More conversations centered on a desire not to just fix old problems, but how to develop new patterns of transformation. Questions included:

  • What would a transformational ministry look like?
  •  Are we working empowered by the Holy Spirit?
  • How much are we investing in prayer?
  • And, simply, are the two cultures understanding each other?

“We need to study the culture before we try to engage there,” Wawa said.